AMBOY — Years ago, quilt makers in this area would piece together colorful fabric blankets for employees at Amboy Middle School. If a teacher was expecting a baby, she'd get a quilt. If a staff member was retiring, a quilt was one of the parting gifts.
Students at the school even helped make quilts to raise money for new tennis courts.
Today, that love of quilting has evolved, Barbara Rogers said Sunday at the North Clark Historical Museum in Amboy. Quilt makers in the area now come together for an annual quilt show that helps them raise money for the museum.
In its ninth year, the quilt show on Saturday and Sunday showed off 63 painstakingly-constructed blankets, a couple of them about 100 years old. Many featured brightly colored geometric patters. Others had woodsy or animal themes. Some were decorated with delicate ribbons, embroidery or images of flowers.
"Oh, I love the colors in that," one woman said as visitors walked between walls of hanging quilts. The show drew nearly 130 guests Saturday and more than 60 guests Sunday by the afternoon.
Visitors also had the chance to win a quilt of their own in a raffle. The blanket — yellow with white triangles and images of large, red flowers — will be handed over to the winner in November during a celebration honoring veterans, said Rogers, a quilt show organizer. At that event, the organizers also will give a lap quilt to a randomly chosen veteran in attendance.
The quilt stitching on Sunday's raffle prize was done by Cheryl Collins of Amboy. She started quilting four years ago, and "I was hooked."
"I think you have to have an interest in art, and I think you have to have an interest in sewing," Collins said of the hobby.
The yellow-and-white quilt took 1,600 hours to sew the fabric pieces together and another 50 hours to perform quit stitching with a machine, Collins said, adding that several people helped sew the quilt together.
Past and present
Just as sewing technology has evolved, so have trends in quilting, sewing enthusiasts said Sunday.
Rogers pointed to a so-called crazy quilt on display, made by hand more than a century ago. It was pieced together using mismatched scraps of fabric. In many cases, quilt-making was born from necessity.
"Bedding was hard to come by," Rogers said. "People had to use what they had."
That point was echoed by Barb Sizemore, who sat at the back of the museum on Sunday and gave yarn-spinning demonstrations.
Families used to shear wool from sheep, use spinning wheels to turn the wool into yarn and make clothes and blankets from that yarn. Because bedding and clothes were scarce, such items weren't just handed down from sibling to sibling, they were handed down from one generation to the next, she said.
"We don't even comprehend that anymore," Sizemore said. In fact, she said, many families trained one of their daughters as a yarn spinner and wouldn't allow her to get married because her services were too valuable to the family. That's where the term spinster comes from, she said.
Today, in an era where bedding is no longer difficult to acquire, many quilt makers get into the hobby to express creativity, turning carefully chosen patterns and fabrics into gifts for loved ones, Rogers said.
"It's creating beautiful things, but it's also sharing with others," she said.